Communal tables have been slow to gain acceptance, but they are increasingly appearing in restaurants of all types – from casual to fine dining. “We’re putting communal tables in almost all the restaurants we’re designing,” says Cass Calder Smith, principal, CCS Architecture. “Restaurants are becoming more casual and many people – particularly younger clientele – don’t like to make reservations or to commit until the last minute.” Cass explains that communal tables work well for walk-ins, singles, and small groups – and the entire table can even be used for larger parties if there’s no private room. “They offer terrific flexibility for both restaurants and customers, plus they give great energy to a room.”
“Communal tables are a natural extension of dining at the bar, which has become very popular in the last few years.” – Cass Calder Smith, principal, CCS Architecture
Usually situated between the bar and dining room and typically seating 10-14, most communal tables are bar height (42 inches). Cass recommends the width be 42 inches as well, so diners aren’t crowded. Instead of a separate high table, The Herbfarm, Woodinville, WA, combines modular dining tables to form “European Common” tables, seating six to nine. “Guests are told about the option of joining a common table when they make reservations,” says Carrie van Dyck, big cheese. “Some nights we have several – our modular system gives us ultimate flexibility.”
Most restaurants, like Hank’s Seafood, Charleston, SC, don’t take reservations for their communal table. “We turn it about three times a night, using it for last-minute reservations, singles, and walk-ins,” says Eric Rauber, gm. “Seating is up to the guests – it creates a casual and friendly atmosphere; people move over to accommodate other customers.” The community table at Terzo, San Francisco, CA, is what gm Matthew Derrick calls “nobody’s table and everybody’s table.” He says, “We found our young guests really understand it – they like sitting next to people they don’t know and striking up a conversation.” Monday is “Community Night” at The Kitchen Cafe, Boulder, CO. “Our communal table is doubled to seat 24 and a multiple-course tasting is served family style for $35/person,” says Hugo Matheson, owner. Recent referrals for Terzo’s communal table are coming from concierges sending business travelers, who increasingly don’t want to dine alone and want to be in a restaurant with a friendly, “neighborhood” vibe. A caution: “If you have a communal table, you’ve got to commit to it and encourage people to sit there. Otherwise it ends up being a dead space,” advises Cass.